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Super Responds to NY Times Article
Tuesday, 02 June 2009

June 2--  Montgomery County School Superintendent Dr. Lynn Batten responds to a recent New York Times Magazine article regarding private proms conducted by black and white students at Montgomery County High School.  He released the following statement at Monday night's school board meeting.

"An article was recently published in the May 24, 2009 edition of The New York Times Magazine, titled "A Prom Divided". The article depicted the recent occurrence of two privately sponsored and funded proms that appear to be racially divided and attended by Montgomery County high school students. The article depicts the Montgomery County School System in a negative light, implying that school officials condone and foster racial segregation.

As with the case of any story addressing the emotionally charged issue of race, the article has elicited a variety of opinions from members of the public and press and commentators have succumbed to the urge to voice their beliefs regarding the issue and draw conclusions about Montgomery County, Georgia, however uninformed.

After consulting with school officials and reviewing information concerning this matter I must take issue with several of the assertions and implications contained within the article. Despite any claim to the contrary, there has been no formal request in recent years from Montgomery County students for the Montgomery County School System to sponsor any form of prom. The issue has not surfaced in any student or school council meeting in recent years. Further, while the article depicted school officials as uninterested in addressing the issue of private proms, it failed to mention that the Montgomery County School System has previously sponsored school dances, including a prom in 1995, and on each occasion the dances failed to gain support from the student body and were poorly attended.

I recognize that the attendance at a prom is considered a rite of passage for many high school students and an important activity that a student and his or her family may share. In many communities in our country the local school system sponsors such an activity, with the full support of its student body And their parents. However, such support from the Montgomery County student body and their parents has been lacking in the past and until the publication of the recent article there had been no public discussion of the Montgomery County School System sponsoring any form of prom or other dance in the near future.

As the Superintendent of the Montgomery County School System my primary goal is to provide and maintain consistent, quality instruction for Montgomery County students, with a safe and positive environment so that our students may achieve in the future. To date, the Montgomery County School System has not considered the sponsorship of a high school prom to be of a vital concern, as students and their families have continued a practice of organizing privately-held proms, not subject to school system rules, policies and funding concerns. If students and their families desire to initiate the discussion of a school sponsored prom in the future the Montgomery County School System administration is willing to participate in the same and explore the feasibility of a school sponsored prom.

I was disappointed with the tone of The New York Times Magazine article, in that it implied that the Montgomery County School System somehow condoned or even fostered racial segregation and thus, prejudice. The lack of a school sponsored prom in Montgomery County, Georgia is not the result of any form of resistance on the part of the school system or its officials, but the product of an environment of general apathy on the part of its students and parents. Similar school systems have been pressured into sponsoring proms in our area only to have such events fail, for lack of interest and support on the part of the students and their families, regardless of race. No school sponsored prom will ever be successful in any community unless and until it receives the unified support of all students and the community. When and if such support is demonstrated the Montgomery County School System will provide all available assistance for the continued success and guidance for its students."



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